Monday, August 26, 2013

Morrowind Day 60 - The Ahemmusa

13 Frost Fall
I spoke with Sul-Matuul as early as it was polite to do so. His face characteristically betrayed no hint of his thoughts as I  explained what I had witnessed, but he accepted my story as truth. He cautioned that the word would soon spread of my feat and that the Great Houses and especially the Temple would not look upon my being named Nerevarine by the Ashland tribes. He advised that if I had any business with them that I take care of that before talking to the other two tribes. Good advice, but I have no desire to involve myself with House Redoran any further, at least not right now.

He also told me to talk to Nibani about the ways of the other tribes so that I could approach them without making mistakes and wasting time. As Ashkhan of the Urshilaku tribe, he was empowered to name me Nerevarine, but he insisted on giving me a small speech about 'need' and 'duty' beforehand. The 'need' was to destroy Dagoth Ur's Sixth House, to expose the Tribunal as false gods, and to show Nerevar's ring as proof of Azura's favor. These were not needs that I really needed to be told about, but perhaps Sul-Matuul was feeling appreciative over his role as the facilitator of the Nerevarine Prophecies.

As for duty, he merely repeated what Nibani had been telling me: that I must defeat Dagoth Ur and free the false gods from their guilt. Having said what he needed to say, Sul-Matuul formally named me Urshilaku Nerevarine. His final gift to me was a carved stone amulet he called the 'Teeth of the Urshilaku', which he said would serve as proof of the Urshilaku Tribe's naming of me.

As for the other tribes, his opinion was not high. He  described the the Erabenimsun Tribe as a collection of brutes, badly led and more a mob than a tribe. His advice was to forsake the Ashkhan entirely and talk directly with the tribe's wise-woman. According to Sul-Matuul, my arrival into their camp would likely result in the violent removal of the current Ashkhan in favor of one more in favor with the wise-woman. Good to know.

Ahemmusa Tribe are their mirror opposites. The tribe largely consists of peaceful guar herders and do not wage war against any of the other tribes, nor do they bear much animosity towards outlanders. However, the revival of the Daedric cults have corralled the tribe on to a narrow peninsula and the tribe's lack of warrior culture has led to a lack of warriors to keep the tribe safe. 

Sul-Matuul saved the greatest amount of contempt for Zainab Tribe. He described them as a tribe of 'coin-obsessed merchants' and revealed that they actually owned an ebony mine somewhere inside the Ghostfence. This is interesting news, as it implies a level of stable living possible within what I consider to be Dagoth Ur's realm. 

Nibani recommended that if I was set on speaking to the tribes right away, that I go to the Ahemmusa first, as they are the shortest distance from the Urshilaku and in the most dire need of assistance, be it from the Nerevarine or anyone else. She recommended discarding my Daedric weapons before visiting the tribes, as she felt the tribes would look unfavorably towards the Nerevarine wielding Daedra-infused arms.

My feelings on that matter were, and still is, mixed. Knowing what I do about the history of the Dunmer people, I could see how the Daedric weaponry could be seen as a negative. But on the other side, the weapons are far stronger than anything else I have and a dead Nerevarine does no one any good. In the end, I wound up leaving them at my house in Ald'ruhn, but again I am getting a little ahead of the day's events.

However, my recent adventures had depleted my inventory of useful items and saddled me with things of questionable utility. So rather than immediately journey to the tribe, I used my last scroll of Divine Intervention to pop back to Gnisis. From there it was a short walk across the river to Berandas and therefore, Caldera.

I purchased a fair quantity of restoratives at the Caldera Mages Guild and teleported to each of the Guilds to buy more potions and to sell off the treasure I had picked up from the Sixth House bases. The House amulets, taken from the Sixth House priests, were especially valued. I finished my rounds at the Ald'ruhn guild and walked home. Everything was just as I left it and I took the time to place what I did not want to carry or sell carefully, for you never know when something may have a use later.

The Bonemold bow Sul-Matuul had me fetch from the Urshilaku burial cavern is one of those things. I did not throw it away or sell it out of respect for the tribe, but now that I am switching to lighter, more 'native' weapons, it has saved me the trouble of having to buy one. Plus, using an Urshilaku bow may help me in my relations with the tribes.

Similarly, Erur-Dan's chitin spear that I was given in the Cavern of the Incarnate has replaced my reliable, and heavy, Daedric spear. Strange as it may sound, I feel just as confident without the Daedric weaponry as I did with them. The weight of the Daedric equipment has strengthened me more than I realized, for I feel light as a feather with my simple bow and spear and I am vastly more skilled than I used to be. 

An hour or so was spent doing what I could with the many alchemy ingredients I had collected. My skill at potion-crafting is probably never going to be great and I wasted a great deal of what I had. But as the afternoon rolled around I had a collection of useful, if somewhat weak, potions made by my own hands.
My last stop was Balmora, first to the Razor Hole to buy some silvered arrows and have my Dreugh (Ashlander approved) armor repaired, then to Nalcarya's. I bought a few potions I could not find at the Mages Guilds, but I really had come to sell my most valuable ingredients, for which she paid me twenty-five hundred Septims. She mentioned that there was a rumor going about me and the prophecies. According to her, most people are disregarding it as a silly rumor, but the Temple has labeled me as a heretic...which I find odd. It is not as if the Tribunal Temple has a large amount of Khajiit converts after all. Would we not all be heretics in some fashion?

Rotheran fortress lay just north of the Ahemmusa Camp and teleporting there certainly saved me a great deal of time. From there it was just a short walk across the water into the camp, shrouded in fog and perilously close to a Daedric shrine.
The tribespeople milling about did not seem all that surprised that I was visiting them with the intention to claim the title of Ahemmusa Nerevarine. I was directed to one of the 'Gulakhans', a position inferior to that of Ashkhan, but the highest available within the Amhemmusa tribe. 

The Gulakhan I spoke with called himself Dutadalk and was very dismissive of me. He said he had no problems with letting another fool try to play at fulfilling the Prophecies and ungraciously allowed me to speak with the tribe's wise woman, Sinnammu. She was an old woman, but a great deal more helpful than the Gulakhan was. She was called Sinnammu and she was willing to give me a fair chance to prove that I was the Nerevarine. The proof she needed seemed simple: create a safe place for the Ahemmusa. 

When the Temple was strong, the tribe was able to retreat to the Daedric shrine of Ald Daedroth, for the Ordinators kept the shrine safe. But a priestess of Sheogorath has taken advantage of the Temple concentrating their forces at Ghostgate to bringto occupy the shrine with her cultists and summoned Daedra. Sinnammu's task was for me to go to the shrine, kill or drive off all the cultists, and generally make the place safe again for the Ahemmusa. When I thought it safe, I was to return to the camp and escort the aged wise woman to the shrine.

Having said that, she seemed resigned to death, with each of my attempts to gather more information met with the reminder that I would not be named Nerevarine if she should die. Between their rudeness and lack of hope, the Ahemmusa truly are a depressing lot.

I was eager to be free of them and set off immediately for the shrine. It lay on an island almost directly north of the camp and my water walking spell saved me from having to trouble myself with slaughterfish and dreugh. 

The sounds of battle rang from the ruined shrine well before I reached it and by the time I got there there was only a single Ordinator and a cultist left fighting outside. The cultist summoned a Bonewalker, but neither was any match for the Temple warrior. He was equipped with silver-colored armor in place of the usual gold, perhaps a lesser or greater rank? I do not know.
Surprisingly, the Ordinator turned on me as soon as he dispatched the cultist and I was forced to kill him. I had thought I was marked for death by the Temple, but I met a great deal of Ordinators battling the remaining cultists inside the shrine and they had no issues with me so long as I left them alone.

The Ordinators had already done a good job at eliminating the cultists and I only fought two of them myself. Each of them was carrying identical amulets, with minor enchantments, but I left them on the bodies. No sense in giving the Ordinators reason to attack me. As an aside, both my chitin spear and bonemold bow fared very well in battle, far better than I expected. 

And that was the whole of my story of Ald Daedroth. I walked back across the water to the camp and arrived just before midnight or so. I am calling it a night now rather than wake the old woman for the walk back. Tomorrow morning I will escort her to the ruins and hopefully be named Ahemmusa Nerevarine. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Morrowind Day 59 - The Cavern of the Incarnate

12 Frost Fall
You would think taking a nap in House Dagoth's former stronghold would invite all sorts of nightmares, given what I have experienced from Dagoth Ur while asleep. But my brief rest was undisturbed. Sleep at home: Nightmares and attacks by monsters, sleep under Dagoth Ur's roof: peaceful sleep. I suppose stranger things have happened.

The Blight storm was still raging when I walked outside. Are the storms directly controlled by Dagoth Ur or are they a side-effect of the growing power within the Red Mountain? Whatever their origin, the storm lasted the entire day and I do wonder if it has any connection with the Ash Vampire I slew yesterday.
The walk back to the Urshilaku camp was dust-filled, but uneventful. Sul-Matuul was surprised to see me return, admitting that while he did think I would survive, he did not expect me to complete the task so soon. In bringing the three items before him, I have completed his personal test and he revealed what he knew of the third trial of the Nerevarine. 

The third trial really came in two parts: the first was Wisdom's Test, a simple puzzle in the form of a riddle. Solving it would lead me to the Cavern of the Incarnate, the second part of the trial. Decoding the riddle would provide directions. The riddle was:

the eye of the needle lies in the teeth of the wind
the mouth of the cave lies in the skin of the pearl
the dream is the door and the star is the key

Once I found the Cavern I was to acquire 'the moon and star' and bring it to Nibani. Sul-Matuul called the puzzle Wisdom's Test, but the wisdom was simply in asking the right people. Several of the Ashlanders were able to decode the riddle's lines and helpfully pointed me to the east. I was to travel along the coast until I saw two tall stone spires, the 'teeth of the wind', on either side of a small valley, which I guess is the 'eye of the needle'. 

The Blight storm reduced visibility to roughly three feet in front of me, but it did the same for everything else in the Ashlands. I walked right along the shore to maintain my direction and was trailed by several Dreugh certainly hoping I would slip and fall into the water. Even in the storm, the spires were pretty easy to locate, as they sat at the very end of the coast before the mountains separating the Ashlands from the eastern grasslands.
The valley did nothing to block the dust of the Blight storm and I was tempted to duck into a tomb I passed along the way, but it was starting to grow late and I did not want to have to walk back to camp at night during a Blight storm. 

Finding the door to the Cavern of the Incarnate was very easy, for the valley terminated at the entrance. I had been told the door would only open when Azura's star was visible, but my hands were barely visible thanks to the storm, so I tried pushing it open. If it was stuck I could simply wait a bit.
The door opened easily and I stepped inside the unusually cool air of the cavern. Immediately ahead of me was a very large and skillfully carved statue of the Daedric Prince Azura. Though clearly a Daedric shrine of some kind, it completely lacked the architecture of the other shrines and I felt at peace while I was there. I could see mummified bodies sitting around the shrine as I saw in the Urshilaku burial cavern, but they were not armed as the tribe's were. As I drew closer to the statue, I saw a ring floating within its cupped hands.

The ring was faced with a silver moon and a golden star, the symbols of Azura. Something in me felt compelled to take it and the world froze just as I wrapped my hand around it. Suddenly I was floating just above the Red Mountain, but the sky was clear and I could see the whole of Morrowind. Visions danced before my eyes and a voice exploded within my head. I will forever remember the words:

Nerevar reborn, Incarnate, your first three trials are finished, now two new trials lie before you. 
Seek the Ashlander Ashkhans and the Great House councilors. 
Four tribes must name you Nerevarine, three Houses must name you Hortator. 
My servant, Nibani Maesa, shall be your guide and when you are Hortator and Nerevarine, 
when you have stood before the False Gods and freed the Heart from its prison, 
heal my people and restore Morrowind. 
Do this for me and with my blessing.

...and then I felt something hit my hand and I was back in the cavern again, the ring within my grasp and the voice and visions completely gone. The voice was the same one that plagued my dreams while on the ship to Seyda Neen and it seems that Azura has singled me out to be the savior of the Dunmer people. I wish I knew more about Temple doctrine, but my short time there was spent sweeping floors more often than not. She's credited with creating the Khajiit and said by the Dunmer to be involved with their creation somehow, but more than that I do not know. 

When I turned to leave, I was quite startled by the ghost standing behind me. Contrary to the skeletal ghosts the Dunmer guard their tombs with, this one appeared as a young Dunmer woman. The spirit was friendly and called herself 'Peakstar', one of the failed Incarnates.

She had quite a list of titles to bequeath upon me: Incarnate, Moon-and-Star Reborn, Hortator, Nerevarine, Mourner of the Tribe Unmourned, and the Redeemer of the False Gods. I thought this odd, considering I was just told that I was not yet the Nerevarine nor Hortator, but I suppose I would be a bit out of it if my spirit had been stuck in the cave for who knows how many years. 

The spirit of Peakstar proved to be quite enlightening. The Moon-and-Star ring on my hand confirms that I am one of the incarnations of Nerevar, for anyone else would have been killed when they put the ring on. As the group of spirits in the cave would attest to, merely being Nerevar Reborn is no guarantee of success: Peakstar's run as Incarnate ended at the clawed hands of an Ash Vampire, the description of which matched the jeweled-head creature I had decapitated under Kogoruhn.

The Tribe Unmourned is House Dagoth and Peakstar advised that I pity the House rather than hate it, for the fall of Dagoth Ur came about only due to "my" instructions to guard the artifacts under Red Mountain. Following the Nerevar's instruction, Dagoth Ur defended the tools from the Tribunal, ultimately leading to the situation I find myself in now. I must say that I do not agree with Peakstar's view, for following that logic means that Peakstar herself is just as much to blame, having been the Incarnate at one time. Either way, it was interesting to hear.

The False Gods that the Incarnate is the redeemer of are the three of the Tribunal: Vivec, Almalexia, and Sotha Sil. They used the artifacts taken from Red Mountain to grant themselves Godhood and raised themselves up as the guardians of Morrowind, to the best of my understanding.

She conjured up a belt and pants from somewhere Beyond and gave them to me as gifts to assist me against Dagoth Ur. The belt is pretty much useless to me, but the pants have a levitating enchantment on them and will actually be useful...if I can get them altered to fit me. Any clothier should be able to help me.

The other spirits were briefer in their advice to me. The next I spoke to was named Ane Teria, who lived her life as a devout crusader for the Tribunal Temple. She was also something of an author and her writings were suppressed after her death, eventually becoming part of the Dissident Priest's hidden library, though I cannot remember if I read anything written by her. While she spent her life in faithful service to the Temple, she ignored the call of Azura and denied her role as the Nerevarine. She provided a book and her old mace.

Next was a sorcerer named Erur-Dan, who lived during Morrowind's surrender to the Empire. He wasted his life away on vengeance against the Imperials and eventually died in battle at Red Mountain, forever buried under the howling dust of the perpetual storm. His gifts were more appropriate for me, but still of limited use: an enchanted chitin spear and an enchanted bonemold cuirass.

Idrenie Nerothan was a thief Incarnate who fought against the Akaviri when they invaded Morrowind, an event I know absolutely nothing about, save for that it occurred a long time ago. She provided a high quality lock-pick and a thief's probe. She claimed to have worked behind the scenes against the Akaviri and learned only of the Nerevarine prophecy when the war drove her to seek refuge with the Ashland tribes. As for her fate, she would only say she died in Kogoruhn while trying to find treasure.

Perhaps the closest to success among the spirits was the former Ashkhan, Conoon Chodala. He led his tribe against the Akaviri which led to his peoples' deaths. He survived the war, making repeated raids into Red Mountain in an attempt to cleanse the horror from the land. In this he was successful, reclaiming many ruined fortresses in his day, but he did not heed the wise-women of the tribes and while he was marked as a savior, he craved only glory in battle, never becoming the Nerevarine. He offered his boots and a battle axe.

The final spirit was a cultured-sounding Dunmer named Hort Ledd. He claimed to have died four hundred years ago, a man of thought rather than action. He knew he was marked as the Incarnate, but he described himself with derision as a 'thinker, not a doer'. He likely died peacefully, having accomplished nothing. From him I received a book and a robe.

And that was my initiation rite into the group of the select few, and up until now, all Dunmer group of Incarnates. I felt it would be quite rude to dump their gifts on the floor, so I was forced to carry all of it out with me, as the spirits did not disappear as I was leaving. I would like to donate them to the Temple, but I gather I am no longer welcome within that institution. I suppose I could just store everything at home...should I ever find myself back there.

The Blight storm was still going strong when I left the cavern and I struggled against the wind all the way back to the camp. I arrived close to midnight, but Nibani had been waiting for my return. She was pleased to hear that everything matched what she saw in her dreams and my story affirmed that Azura has marked the part she is to play in the Prophecy.

She advised that I first be named Nerevarine by the Ashkhans of the four great tribes: the Urshilaku, the Ahemmusa, the Zainab, and the Erabenimsun, before attempting to be named Hortator by the Houses. To be named Nerevarine by the Urshilaku only requires that I ask it of from Sul-Matuul, but it is very early in the morning now and I need to rest. It can certainly wait until...later today.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Morrowind Day 58 - The Ruins of House Dagoth

11 Frost Fall
I woke at my normal time and spoke to Nibani before breakfast about her judgement of the Nerevarine prophecies as they may related to me. She claims her ancestors' spirits and various astrological signs show that I can in fact become the Nerevarine, prophesied hero of the Dunmer people. To become such, I must lift the seven curses of Dagoth Ur through seven tasks spoken of in The Seven Visions prophecy, the whole of which I have re-written here:

seven trials
What he puts his hand to, that shall be done.
What is left undone, that shall be done.

first trial
On a certain day to uncertain parents
Incarnate moon and star reborn.

second trial
Neither blight nor age can harm him.
The Curse-of-Flesh before him flies.

third trial
In caverns dark Azura's eye sees
And makes to shine the moon and star.

fourth trial
A stranger's voice unites the Houses.
Three Halls call him Hortator.

fifth trial
A stranger's hand unites the Velothi.
Four Tribes call him Nerevarine.

sixth trial
He honors blood of the tribe unmourned.
He eats their sin, and is reborn.

seventh trial
His mercy frees the cursed false gods,
Binds the broken, redeems the mad.

one destiny
He speaks the law for Veloth's people.
He speaks for their land, and names them great.

According to Nibani, I already fulfilled the first trial by means of my birth. Nibani did not understand the implications of the second trial, but when I told her of my being "cured" of Corpus by Divayth Fyr she merely remarked that being cured of Corpus was beyond belief, but to stop aging was a whole other matter. Still, she put faith in her ancestor spirits and accepted my words as truth.

The reminder of '...nor age can harm him' made me uneasy and I had succeeded in putting my apparent immortality out of my mind until this morning. Should someone find this journal (for whatever reason) in the years ahead, please track me down and ask me how I feel about it . I am sure I will have an interesting story to tell, if nothing else.

The third trial is unfulfilled. Nibani claimed the trial was a mystery whose answer was not hers to share and sent me to the aloof Sul-Matuul, whose role as the warrior-guardian of the Nerevarine cult made him a part of the prophecy as well.

True to his abrasive personality, he blandly told me that my being the Nerevarine was hard to believe and that Nibani's words have not yet swayed him to accept me. Instead, he bade me to go to a Dunmer fortress named Kogoruhn, the former home of House Dagoth, located close to Falasmaryon. 

Sul-Matuul gave me some advice before I left: be prepared. Haughty though he may be, the Dunmer is every bit the warrior as he claims to be. He and several warriors of the tribe had actually gone into the fortress and the man was not ashamed to admit that he was afraid for himself and his men the entire time. They left the fortress without losing anyone, but it was easy to tell that the raid left the proud warrior shaken.

He asked that I retrieve three things from the ruins: rags from a corpus beast, a goblet bearing the crest of House Dagoth, and an enchanted shield he called the 'Shadow Shield', which he said was lying deep underneath the fortress among pits of lava, on a tomb for a Dagoth Morin. Sounds like a wonderful resting place. If I bring him the three items, he will acknowledge me as warrior enough to be the Nerevarine and tell me what he knows of the third trial. Kogoruhn did not have a functioning Propylon Index (the latter events of today making the reason for that quite obvious), so it was another walk in the Ashlands for me.
Kogoruhn fortress
Curiously, the ruins of what I guess used to be houses dotted the area around the fortress. Was that to be typical of all the fortresses, or perhaps a plan of Dagoth Ur's to consolidate his people into one location? Whatever the plan, it did not come to fruition. The roof had no Propylon chamber, instead having three separate chambers, plus the main entrance. For reasons unknown, a simple ancestor spirit was wandering around and dispatched with less effort than it took to write this sentence.

Being the former residence of House Dagoth, I made sure to be well-prepared before I stepped into the first of the chambers. A good thing I was, for just inside was one of Dagoth Ur's tentacle-faced minions, who immediately rushed to engage me in melee combat. However, their strength lies in their spell-casting  and I quickly overpowered it.

The other two chambers each contained one of the floating horrors I encountered yesterday. They are far more powerful spell-casters than the tentacle-faces, but their withered arms make them just about defenseless when closely engaged. Each of the chambers had a supporting pillar in the center, making it easy to dance around and strike at the abominations as they ponderously tried to get into position to hit me with spells.
Scrawled on the floor of the two chambers were symbols I did not recognize and the phrase "The dreamer is awake". Is the dreamer Dagoth Ur? Or does it refer to the nightmare-haunted townspeople I have been encountering? 
I found a pile of corpus-infected rags in one of the chambers. Though not taken from a corpus creature, the stench was more than enough to give away their origin. Sul-Matuul will certainly be satisfied with them.

The inside of the actual fortress was typical of the others: one long passage circling the structure with open alcoves built along the way. Dagoth Ur's minions were in full occupancy of the place and I was able to kill the majority of them via bowshot down the long corridors. In one room I found a sheaf of poetry pinned to a table by a dagger, but the papers were full of fawning nonsense over the 'coming' of Dagoth Ur's new reign. Sitting atop a crate was a cup of House Dagoth. Two down, one to go.

I fought my way around the circular hallway and took the stairs upwards on to the roof once I had cleared the floor. Stepping outside on to the roof, I was greeted by the most pleasant sky I have seen since arriving on Vvardenfell. It proved to be an ironic gift given what I was to soon encounter underground.
I worked my way down to the lower level of the fortress and found more writing on the floor, this time in blood. I could not read the runic letters though. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to my temple studies after all.

Three richly equipped and long-dead adventurers were each locked in their own cell. Their manner of dead was impossible to determine, for they seemed unharmed physically. I initially thought they had been kept in the rooms until lack of water killed them, but their weapons were in the room and I think they would have killed themselves before succumbing to thirst. Whatever the case, one of the adventurers had been Khajiit and I left his body in peace. One of the adventurers had been wielding a glass halberd and I took a few experimental swings with it. Either the weapon is light enough or I am now strong enough, but it does not unbalance me the same way standard-issue steel halberds did. I took it with me and superstitiously left a few gemstones in its place.

 The fourth door led not to a dead adventurer, but a sewer system in the middle of the Ashlands somehow still filled with water. The wide open space provided ample opportunities for my bow and I felled one of the stone-skinned creatures, a Frost atronach, and a tentacle-faced creature without receiving a scratch.

A rough tunnel had been hewn out of the side of the sewers and the doorway had bloody rune lettering all over it. The tunneling beyond the door was similar to the underground section of Berandas, only with less breathable air and a great deal more lava. The latter proved to be handy after I lured my second angry Bonewalker into the molten sludge, destroying it instantly.

Beyond that Bonewalker was a long corridor, at the end of which I could see a vaguely human-shaped creature staring at me. It was not attacking, or shouting, or even pacing. Just standing there, watching me approach. This was entirely new behavior and with the air clouded by the lava fumes, the "creature" could have been Dunmer, possibly a stranded Ashland tribesman, so I declined to send arrows its way.

What ARE you?
The monstrous nature of my secret admirer became steadily more obvious as I grew closer and I began to regret my decision not to shoot whatever it was full of arrows. While it was easy to see that the thing used to be a Dunmer, the magics of Dagoth Ur had changed him (or her, I suppose) into a truly terrifying opponent. 

Easily seven feet tall, the monster was all muscle and looked completely capable of tearing me apart with hands stuck halfway between fingers and claws. A glowing orb was set into its forehead, which strongly resembled an eye and could not be removed. It was nearly naked, wearing only a loincloth and a bronze head-dress with unreadable runes all over it. The thing was not nearly as bizarre looking as some of Dagoth Ur's minions, but it was certainly the most menacing.

When I got close, it screamed and launched itself at me, but I had put my bow away in favor of my new halberd and was able to keep it at a distance with the weapon's longer reach. Unfortunately, my good sense must have failed me, for the Daedric spear was a far better choice but was then lying in the corridor so that I could be more mobile for combat against this horror.

Whatever abilities or magicka the creature may have possessed, it was set on grabbing me and presumably dashing me against the stone walls. It was very fast on its feet despite its size and I suffered several raking blows from its fingers which left wounds that alternated between burning pain and cold numbness. But the fight was not one-sided. The glass halberd took well to the creature's muscular flesh and the battle ended brutally. While it was dancing around me, I managed  to lop one of its feet off with a low swing, then immediately followed up with a strike against its neck when it toppled to the ground, completely severing the creature's head from it's shoulders. However, the blow also severely damaged the halberd's blade as it bit into the cavern floor.

I have an Orc back in the Auxiliaries to thank for that maneuver, though I find now I have forgotten almost all of their names and faces.

Distasteful as it may sound, I tried to pry the gemstone out of the creature's forehead, but it proved impossible to dislodge. I threw the head into a lava pit and took a few moments to examine the body. Naked as it was, there was not much to examine. It had a belt that was strongly enchanted, but I have not been able to identify with what. Someone at the Mages Guild will probably be able to tell me. The damage done to the halberd was enough that I left it with the headless corpse and I like to think that its final use was revenge enough for the fallen adventurer and his friends.

Everything after that seemed rather anti-climatic. I found Sul-Matuul's Dwemer 'Shadow Shield' in a room lined with altars and memorials, helpfully staffed by one of the tentacle-faced things. There was an Orcish warhammer on one altar and a pair of Daedric gauntlets on another, but I left everything alone. Anything taken from this place is a curse.

By the time I made my way back up and out of the fortress it was well past midnight, but the clear night sky was a welcome sight. Rather than walk back to the Ashland camp tired, wounded, and very nervous, I have locked myself in one of the small domes and will take a nap for a few hours until daybreak.
I do wonder if Sul-Matuul is actually expecting me to return.